Choosing Bucknell University was not strictly a football decision for Cary Hess.
He chose the prestigious school in Lewisburg to continue his education and football career with both in mind.
"It was probably about equal between academics and football," said Hess, a towering presence on both lines for Shippensburg over the past three seasons. "I really liked their academics, well beyond other schools I looked at. And when I made my official visit and talked to the coaches, I could tell I'd fit in well there."
Hess, 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds, expects to play on the offensive line for the Bison, probably at tackle, but, he said, "I'll play wherever they need me."
For three years, Hess has been one of the top linemen in the Mid Penn Colonial Division under Hounds coach Eric Foust.
But Hess is also a top student - he ranks No. 1 in his senior class. At Bucknell, he plans to study biology and pre-med, with an eye toward becoming an anesthesiologist down the road.
"They have some really good research opportunities that were better than other places I looked," Hess said.
Bucknell began recruiting Hess in the spring of his junior season and eventually offered him a full scholarship. He also visited Colgate, and had some interest from Division I Kent State until the Golden Flashes' coach, Darrell Hazell, left to take over the job at Purdue.
The Bison, a member of the Patriot League, were 3-8 in 2012.
Hess said, "The football team has a lot of young players and they're growing as a team. I like the head coach (Joe Susan, in his third year) and I think he'll be staying there a while."
The recruiting process can be a drag and it's usually good to have it behind you.
Hess said, "It was fun sometimes, but it became really stressful when it was decision time. I was able to focus on what the team was doing week to week this season, but college was always a second focus.
"It was a relief when I made the decision and called the (Bucknell) coach to tell him. Coach Foust said, 'Now you get to take a deep breath.' He was right."
With his size and athleticism, Hess has been targeting college football for a few years.
"I had a pretty good freshman year, and then between my freshman and sophomore year I went to a combine in the summer," he said, "and I ended up going to a national combine. I probably realized then that I would be good enough to play in college."
For now, Hess will continue wrestling for the Hounds, where is a 285-pounder ranked No. 15 in the state in Class AAA. He is currently 10-1.
He wants to make a deep run in the District 3 Tournament with the goal of winning enough matches to reach the 100-win mark for his career. He needs 17 more victories to get to that number.
"But really, the main goal is to not get hurt for football," Hess said.
He knows that's where his future is.
Ed Gotwals can be reached at 262-4755 and firstname.lastname@example.org.